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The Hindu on : PM's appeal to Medha Patkar

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Saturday, September 25, 1999

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PM's appeal to Medha Patkar

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 24 The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, today appealed to Ms. Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) ``not to resort to any course of action which could involve risk to her life or the lives of her colleagues in the Narmada Bachao Andolan''.

Mr. Vajpayee's letter was delivered today by a Joint Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office to Ms. Patkar, at Dhule Jail in Maharashtra, where she is being held in ``protective custody''.

``You will agree with me that the issue of the Narmada project is highly complex and is not amenable to any facile solution. At this juncture, we need the involvement of dedicated and committed social activists such as you. I would appeal to you not to undertake any course of action which could involve risk to your life or to the lives of your colleagues''.Ms. Medha Patkar is protesting her arrest, the third time within a month, in Dhule jail. She and about 400 activists, several of whom were roughed up, were arrested in Dhadgaon on September 22, while they stood in Narmada waters facing submergence. The NBA is calling for a halt on the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Project which threatens the lives of several hundred families to be displaced by the project and several thousand acres of land to be submerged without proper rehabilitation and resettlement. The Andolan has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking review of the project, particularly the claims of its costs and benefits. In his letter, the Prime Minister said: ``I have been disturbed by recent reports in the media that you and your colleagues in the Narmada Bachao Andolan have expressed the intention to offer jal samadhi in an attempt to focus attention on the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) measures to be taken up by the party States to the Narmada dispute.

``As you are aware, the R&R measures for the Project Affected Persons are primarily the responsibility of the concerned States. However, keeping in view the enormous human problems associated with large-scale displacement, a number of mechanisms to monitor the implementation of R&R measures have been put in Place. An independent Grievance Redressal Authority headed by Mr P.D. Desai, retired Chief Justice of Calcutta, Himachal Pradesh and Mumbai High Courts is also reporting to the Supreme Courts on these measures.

``No one can dispute that the displacement of people from their lands and their communities leads to tremendous upheaval in their lives. Hence there is a need for great sensitivity in conceptualising and implementing appropriate R&R schemes. While it is not easy to do this to the complete satisfaction of the affected people, we are trying to ensure the best possible rehabilitation package for them. I assure you that we will continue the process.''

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